A few weeks ago my co-worker, Dominic Del Bene, pointed me to a blog post from AdamHammer.com entitled “Where the F*CK have I been???” It’s a good idea to read that first. In it, Adam explains that in 2012, his father went to jail for lewd and lascivious acts with a minor(“some To Catch a Predator type stuff”) where he died. Dealing with the family crisis sent his personal life and career into a tailspin. Depression, alcohol, rage…Not a good combination. I couldn’t believe how raw the story and writing was. It was like getting pounded in a bare knuckle fight and left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. Brutal. It was so crazy that I wanted to know more about the story and how these events have effected Adam’s stand-up and he was gracious enough to answer my questions.
Before the Q/A I wanted to start with something Adam included in an email towards the beginning of our correspondence.
“I should probably mention that I’m so open and honest about this stuff because of Robert Schimmel. I toured with him for a couple of years and the way he got through losing a son to cancer, a messy divorce, his own cancer and all the other shit that happened to him was to talk about it and not seek sympathy, but laughs. It feels better to have people laughing with you than telling you they’re sorry. Unfortunately, that comes with a risk of sounding calloused. The only way to find other people who may have gone through something similar is to talk about it. And just hearing you’re not alone is therapeutic in itself.”
Gotta love Robert Schimmel.
RC(Rooftop Comedy): Did you do jokes about your father before all this happened? What were they
Yes. Sort of. Here’s a video:
RC: How did his role in your life shape your comedy?
-I learned what wasn’t funny from him and did the opposite. My uncles taught me how to make people laugh. My dad wasn’t funny. He tried and failed miserably. The over-parenting I got shaped my rebellion. Which in turn shaped my pursuit of comedy. Only because I never had the patience to learn an instrument. I was never destined to have a desk job.
RC: Are you afraid that your new bits about your father are too dark?
-No. I’m afraid they aren’t worked out enough. I need to make sure I’m making jokes, not getting therapy. There’s no such thing as too dark. And my bits aren’t dark, they’re honest. They’re uncomfortable, but the people that get it, get it.
RC: Do you think this will forever color your comedy in a certain way?
-Which color? Blue? My jokes have colored me blue long before this. I’ve always taken a “question the answers” approach in my joke writing. For over a decade I’ve talked about the positives of drug use, how drunk drivers are safer than sober drivers (67% of all fatal car accidents are caused by sober people), how deadbeat dads don’t get enough credit for giving us great men, how my plan if I get cancer is to run up a massive credit card bill then go to jail. I try to challenge conventional thinking. I think this subject matter falls in line. Not a lot of comics can find the funny in molestation accusations. It’s all just a challenge for me.
RC: Why do you think it’s important to talk about this on stage?
-I think comedy is a great way to find people with common experiences. Like, I didn’t know any other kids tried putting leaves on a broken bone until I heard Brian Regan do a bit about it. That was great. I don’t think anything is important to talk about on stage though. We’re entertainers. Not artists. Not politicians. I just can’t come up with anything as funny as Brian Regan’s leaf bit. So I make jokes about my dead gay dad.
RC: You mentioned on your blog that these events put your comedy career into a
nose dive. Were you ever close to quitting?
-Not quitting. Just grasping at straws. I was on a pretty steady upward trajectory before this shit went down. Then, my momentum drastically changed. I can’t quit. I may never make it. But I can’t quit. It’s been 13 years since I started. Close to 7 since I’ve had a day job. Not only do I not want to quit, I can’t. Try explaining a 7 year gap on your resume when you’re applying for a square job. I got to the point of applying for jobs last year before I had a project come through. Delivery driver jobs and shit. I have a college degree and that’s the only interview I got. The way that I got in the room is that all my cover letter said was “I have a clean driving record. I’ve never been in jail, and I speak English. I’d love to meet you for an interview.” After sending out at least a hundred letters, that’s the one that got me in the room. Luckily I picked up a writing/producing gig and didn’t have to deliver fish.
RC: What advice do you have for comics coping with a personal struggle?
I’m not religious or involved in any 12 step programs but I was dragged into them when I was a teenager and there is one good thing I picked up: accept the things you cannot change. Change the things you can. Have the wisdom to know the difference. Also, save your money. Always save your money. Even if you’re not going through anything draining, save your money. You’re gonna need it.
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